ALTHOUGH IT is great to see the

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endorse the work of a living Philadelphia artist, the photographer Zoe Strauss, the most interesting part of this article is that the

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shares the concerns regarding the Mural Arts Program put forth a decade ago by the Heretical Society, which was an independent artists' organization that provided a critique of the culture industry in Philadelphia, and which disbanded in 2001. The final statement of the

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editorial is very similar to the last line of the Heretical Society tract, the essay "No More Ugly Murals."

The city of Philadelphia provides more than $1.5 million to the Mural Arts Program yearly, yet is forced to cut funding to libraries and social programs. This situation is untenable and, given the dire economic times we collectively endure, it is utter madness! The entire budget of MAP is $6 million, which means it drains an additional $4.5 million from the small pool of arts funding that isn't provided to it by the city.

This money would be put to better use funding more viable and less aesthetically embarrassing cultural institutions and social programs. The Philadelphia Orchestra is suffering financial difficulties. It is unconscionable that the Mural Arts Program continues to drain $6 million from a shrinking pool of funding for cultural organizations. We do not need additional illustrations on the walls of buildings. We need programs that address the crime on the streets that overlook the murals. We need to address the problems of homelessness, poverty, unemployment and our ranking as the No. 1 per capita murder capital of the United States.

There are more than 3,000 murals painted on the walls of Philadelphia. The economy of Philadelphia is considerably worse than it was 10 years ago, yet this ineffectual program still receives taxpayers' money. When "No More Ugly Murals" was written, the city was blighted by only 1,500 of these amateurish and saccharine odes to political correctness. If the Mural Arts Program had the same budget it does now every year for the last decade, it would have consumed $60 million in arts funding. Can anyone who is not employed by the bureaucracy of the Mural Arts Program possibly think that this situation makes any sense at all? The taxpayers of Philadelphia deserve much better treatment than this.

The city definitely has more pressing concerns than the irresponsible and unnecessary decoration of architecture. That $1.5 million of taxpayers' money could have an impact in restoring cuts to social programs. As long as even one child goes to school hungry in this city, the funding of the bureaucracy of the Mural Arts Program is unthinkable. We do not have the luxury of decorating walls while poverty and crime keep our elderly citizenry trapped behind them.

Michael Macfeat is an artist, writer and curator involved in independent artists' groups since 1980.